Next February, LITE (Local Investment Toward Employment) will celebrate 20 successful years of promoting and supporting "workable solutions to poverty and unemployment in Winnipeg’s inner city."
The organization will be hosting a 20th Anniversary Winter Gala on Feb. 22, 2014 in celebration of the anniversary, and tickets are already available for purchase. The event is expected to attract many leaders in Winnipeg’s business community as well as major LITE donors and influential inner-city advocates and politicians.
All money raised from the event will go towards LITE-supported inner-city employment initiatives.
"We want to be more sustainable as an organization," said Anne Lindsey, executive director of LITE. "We want to be able to support even more jobs in the inner city and we would like to expand our programs. We’ve been here for 20 years and we’ve established a presence in the city so we have a good reputation. We want to build on that.
"People think ‘inner city’ and they don’t always see the good things that are happening here. It’s a community-building effort."
It’s an organization that has come a long way since its start in 1994.
"It all started because of Neechi Foods," said Lindsey. "They saw at Christmas time that their business really plummeted, unlike most businesses which see a real burst. They realized that although the Christmas Hamper Cheer Board Programs were great because they provided these much needed hampers for families, it meant that families were not spending money at the grocery store. Neechi was forced to lay people off.
"The idea was, why not try to make people make hamper purchases at Neechi Foods and other inner-city grocery stores, so that they could continue to give out hampers, but at the same time support inner-city business and employ its residents? People really rallied to the idea. It’s the gift that gives twice."
The organization also gives out grants to those in the inner city who face challenges towards employment.
"We run programs that give out small grants to community agencies — all charities — that have programs that train and/or employ people who face barriers to employment," said Lindsey.
"They’re people who live in extreme poverty, struggle with addictions or with mental health issues, and who’ve been in the justice system. It’s an important piece of what we do."
For LITE, the future is about creating long-term change.
"There are really wonderful charities in Winnipeg who do things like give temporary shelter, emergency food and alleviate the immediate needs that people have for the basics of life," Lindsey said. "For us, we want to do that, but we also want to do the next thing people need to do to get them out of poverty and that is employment. Employment is the best way out of poverty."
"We see that the inner city still has a lot of problems and the long-term strategy is to get people into the workforce. We’re helping people build abilities to help support themselves and their families."
Tickets to the Winter Gala can be purchased by calling 204-942-8578. Tickets are $150 per person or $1,600 for a corporate table sponsorship.